Archive for the ‘In My Life (Pro)’ Category


May 21, 2011

Also delightfully called Travel Fugue – the overpowering desire to wander.  Long a victim of this disease, my symptoms have become increasingly dire.  Though always a traveler, the success of Anatomy Trains has lately given me a free ticket to many places, and I have hit every continent except Antarctica in the last few years.  This year alone, since January, I have been to Greece and back, then to Oxford and Oslo and back, then to Australia and back, then to Norway, Denmark, and Germany and back, and finally to Tokyo and Nagoya and back.  My marriage suffers; my business languishes, but my dromania is satisfied.

But now I have tucked my passport away until October, and am suffering the pains of withdrawal: the weather at home is unending rain, drizzle, and fog, so my sailboat swings idly at its mooring; our ‘estate’ requires all manner of spring projects to be ready for summer which cannot be completed because everything is soggy; my retired neighbour is planing out old boards for his new barn floor and the all-day irritated whine of his planer is driving us all spare; and the long-denied business projects at my home office are so complex and stalled that I feel I am running on shale.

Still, it’s great to be home, as the maniac heart calms to a slower pace, regains its sense of place, stop living out of a suitcase, and relearn the lineaments of my Quan’s face (oom-chakka-chakka-chakka, oom- chakka-chakka-chakka).

Any road up, there are many signs that my dromania must come to an end.  Australia tested the upper limits of how many students I am willing to have on a course.  I can talk to an unlimited number of people; but teaching practical skills to 120 people in 3 days is an exercise in frustration for all of us, however well-handled (and that tour was excellently planned and executed by the Ozzie organizers).  In Europe, we have had trouble being paid on a couple of my courses, a new and disturbing phenomenon.  And the trip to Japan in this year of the tsunami and Fukushima was stressful in the on-again, off-again lead-up, stress with the organizers in execution, and for whatever reason – am I just getting too old for dromania? – getting back to East Coast time took a week of relative jet-leg.

Generally, I love my bipolar waves, and will weather the troughs in order to get the view from the crests.  But this is just too exhausting.

So I have told my scheduler: stop the madness.  I am booked a year out, so the madness continues this next autumn and winter, but then we must focus on the next stage of building a platform for these ideas without my waiting endlessly in airports: web-learning and electronic appearances.  Of course I will still go abroad – being in the belly of the American beast all the time is not good for the soul and skews perception – but my dromenon must go inside again, to search for its center not its outer wings.  And the mania must end.


Japan 2: Confined to Quarters

April 22, 2011

At the end of my second day of seminars in Japan, I must say that the appreciation of people for my coming is genuine – not just the organizers, but the students.  Japan has always had earthquakes and tsunamis – they accept it as the price of living on this island nation on a patchwork of tectonic plates.  We are all helping in whatever way we can: one fellow just came back from giving bodywork to the municipal workers up north, another Alexander Teacher is wondering how to help with traumatized survivors, a third is selling T-shirts to aid the north.

In the Japan Times, an English-language newspaper stuck in my door slot each morning, I read an independent reading of the air radiation levels around Tokyo (very low), and the shocking way the nuclear plant workers are being treated – overworked, underfed.  The embattled Japanese Prime Minister went north himself yesterday and got a very uncharacteristic earful from the refugees up there, still sleeping in shelters with not much being done.  It must be a nightmare for the people trying to administer the recovery.

Toyotas have started rolling off the line, as the early reports have the Japanese economy grinding to a halt.  The ability to keep going, even this little set of seminars, is truly gratefully received.

Ironically and irrationally, I don’t feel like walking around much in the open air to see the last of the cherry blossoms hanging on.  I don’t trust governments or corporate spokesmen any farther than I can throw them, but I truly believe that if radiation levels here were bad, someone independent would have detected it.   But especially when it is raining, I stay confined to quarters, catching up on emails and using the hotel gym rather than run-walking the streets, which is what I did in earlier visits.

There is still some aftershocks, and a major one rumbled the hotel room for about 45 seconds last night.  It felt like a gentle bed massage, but weird when I realized what it was.  I’m on the 35th floor, so it’s a long way down, but these buildings are way, way over-engineered by law.

I keep taking all my nostrums to ward off evil spirits, but all is well so far.

Japan: Landing at Narita

April 20, 2011

I have been called a ‘hero’ for coming to Japan at this time, one month after the tsunami and with the Daiichi nuclear plant still out of control, by the people who have a financial interest in my coming.  I was called a ‘coward’ by the same people when I was contemplating not coming.  My wife and several others would have reversed the epithets, calling me a hero if I had stuck to my guns and stayed home, and a coward for blindly keeping my commitment when the situation had so clearly changed in a way that might damage my health, and thus my deeper commitments to them and the future.

Never has one of my gigs so divided my household or myself.  My promise to myself has been to keep my professional commitments, and last spring’s declining of a lecture in St Petersburg (because of the volcanic ash that was grounding planes all over Europe – good thing too, I would have missed my daughter’s graduation) was a rara avis indeed.

But I chose to come this time, in spite of the possibility of earthquake and irradiated air.  I pray that I may be of some help, and that this choice will be validated.  The clouds coming into Narita looks ominous, with the sun shining through them like the rays of radiation, but my brain is working overtime.

The ominous feeling continues through my sunset ride to the hotel – how much am I adding with my Edgar Allen Poe imagination?  Red sky at night is supposed to be sailor’s delight, but now it looks nacreous with glowering clouds.

My room is on the 35th floor – a long way down if the building goes – which gives me a great view of a subdued Tokyo, but this is more than my overheated perception.  Tokyo, like Paris, is a city of light, but in order to save on electricity, they have ordered extra lights and escalators turned off, so the somber nature of the crisis is reflected in the dimming of neon and company signs, so the predominant night view are the red eyes warning the planes at the tops of the higher buildings.

So it looks like a Dantean circle of hell, but it feels all normal at the hotel and on the streets – I even have seen some late-blooming cherry blossoms, but I am uninclined to eat them.


February 13, 2011

One of the many better aspects of being at home is being able to change my footwear often.  I often call shoes ‘leather coffins’, and Gary Ward wags that they are ‘sensory deprivation chambers’.  Whatever you think of putting your sets of 26 bones, 40 joints, and 70,000 nerve endings into a stiffish box for hours on end, or or go ahead and sing the praises of tropical barefoot existence, I can tell you that I am not going out into a Maine winter in Vibrams or reef runners.  The compromise is to swap footgear regularly, so that my feet get to adapt to something different and maintain their inner movement.

On the road, shoes of any kind take up a lot of room, and for this trip to dreary winter England and crispy winter Oslo, I took only a sturdy pair of Merrill’s that would serve for the wet informality of a KMI class and the colder formality of a convention address to 300 chiropractic doctors – but in any case only one pair, to which my feet have been adapting all week.  I cannot wait to get home to something else – my feet simply get tired of any given shoe, however comfy they are on the first day.

But these turned out to be a bad choice: I only ever get to see Oslo in the winter, as you could not raise a class here in the summer, when everyone is out playing in the stretched-out days.  This time, it is as cold as Maine and even slower to light up in the morning at 60 degrees N latitude.

For some unaccountable reason in this efficient, cheery, and snow-accustomed city, the sidewalks were not shoveled and are now all glare ice.  Everyone is stepping carefully, and my shoes, despite their diamond tread, went right out from under me as I tried to negotiate a little slope down to the skating rink in the median strip of the main drag.

I landed hard on my trochanter, just as my father did when he broke the neck of his femur in a similar fall on ice at 78.  I suffered a mere bruise to my pride and a sore bursa, and my bones feel solid – but it made me aware how I am just 15 years away from when such a fall might stop my in my tracks too.

Curiously, I was relating this story in my lecture that very day: how the neck of his femur broke cleanly, how at his age they had to surgically pin it, and how when I came home from whatever trip I was on, there he was, coming out of the garage with a terrible one-sided limp.

“Does it hurt that much?” I asked.

“No, it doesn’t hurt,” he said, and my eyebrows lifted.

So while he had his cigarette, we walked up and down the driveway: “Can you feel how your weight is traveling over your left foot?  Can you let the weight travel over the right foot in the same way?”  In this way, I kept transferring the successful sensations from the walking his ‘good’ leg was doing to the injured leg.

Bonnie Bainbridge points out that ‘there are no genes for surgery’: he went to sleep with a broken leg and woke up with s sturdy one.  The operation was a success, but that is not the completion of the healing process – his bodymind needed to integrate this sudden and unexpected (by his genes) recovery.  Within five minutes of tracking through the various joints and movements, Dad was walking normally, and did so for the rest of his life.  It was not because I am so skilled, but because no one had bothered to re-educate his movement after the surgery.

I use the story to illustrate the point that in the future, there should be a competent bodyworker attached to every surgical rehab unit, every school and sports facility – both the potential and the need for ‘Spatial Medicine’ are quite large.

Lost and found

September 20, 2010

One of the afflictions of any age, but more as I get older, is the people one is forced to leave behind.  Of course, death is the final leave-taking; my brother and I washed my father’s body some hours after his death, and no moment – not his service, not walking away from the grave when his ashes were interred – was more definite than zipping up the bag over his already shrinking but still beloved face.  Each time I leave my mother on one of my world-girdling trips, I am aware of ‘This could be the last time’, even though she is as strong as Queen Anne’s Lace.  Of course it could be my plane that goes down first, and such leaving could happen anytime with anyone, but you feel this more with your mother than with anyone, do you not?

But I am talking something more prosaic here than those fateful footfalls or the moment you leave you parent’s house and start building a life of your own. This calls to mind Robert Frost’s definition of ‘home’: It is the place that when you have to go there, they have to take you in. As long as your parents’ house is still this place, you have not yet built a true home of spirit.  Though I left their home in my early 20’s and worked my way through several properties and marriages, it was my early 50’s before their house was not my ultimate place of refuge.  For some this never changes, and in truth, I am now back in that place in a way, but now I am the keeper of this ultimate place of refuge for myself and my daughter and perhaps my wife – I’ll have to ask her when next I am home.

But the complex braid of a life means that people wind in and out.  Last autumn, I had been playing music with a blind friend; music is a large part of his life, but once every couple of weeks was all I could manage.  Then I lost a key employee, and for the last nine months it has been business 24-7 as we interviewed, hired, trained, and retooled for new directions – and music went by the wayside.  His life is so different from mine – how do I call up now and say, ‘Sorry, had to discard you for a while, but now I can come back until the next crisis’?

Within the business, to narrow my range still further, there are ‘special needs’ students who arrive at our doorstep who, if they had showed up just a couple of years earlier and perhaps even a few years later, could have been accommodated within the school.  I hate to lose these people, but each phase of our development has its requirements, and they are not all of my choosing. This is most poignant when it involves a teacher – only a few of the students have the capabilities of being a teacher, and fewer still attempt it, and fewer still stick it through. When one of those flies the coop close to the finish line, it is a real emotional loss.

Many of these people, casting me in the role of parent, do not realize how much I am also invested in them, and have that innocent cruelty of newly adult children as they cast off in another direction (‘how sharper than a serpent’s tooth…’).  I feel these losses terribly, and sometimes say things I regret in the heat of departure, as fathers will.  I just remet one of these after a five-year hiatus in which she studiously avoided me.  It was an immediate reunion, as I hoped it might be – enough time had passed and our easy humor retooled itself immediately.  Another teacher, fallen from grace as her personal life unraveled, is now back in the fold and welcome.  I wish all those misfires could return at the right time for re-integration, but the moving finger braids and rebraids and life is a mass of dreads under a red, yellow and green knit cap.  You cannot put a brush through it to find them again, and some opportunities are simply and sadly lost forever.


September 9, 2010

I wish I had a stronger sense of history, as those who will not learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat its mistakes.  My brother is the family historian but I can muster little interest in my forebears.  I love the evolutionary time scale, but as an anti-traditionalist, I am so oriented to the present and future.  Yesterday, though, I was given an affectionate tour of a working present lovingly mired in a lot of storied past.

I had been invited by the sharp and dedicated Mike Reinold to give a short in-service to the athletic coaches / rehab guys for the Red Sox.  If I have a team, I suppose it’s the Sox (though I love my friend George’s reply to rabid fans – and they abound in New England – when they bring up the Sox: “I’m sorry, I don’t follow football” – that shuts ‘em up).  I had never been to the park for a game, have only occasionally watched them on TV for a few innings, listen to the odd game on the radio while driving or sailing, maintain a vague sense of when they are doing well or poorly, and come out of the woodwork to cheer and drink and swear only when they make the playoffs.

But you cannot live here for half a century without absorbing some of the Sox lore, from Babe Ruth on down.

As part of the ‘payment’, my daughter Misty and I got free passes to Tuesday’s game with the Tampa Bay Rays.  My plane was late getting in from London, so we weren’t there until the third inning, but there were still streams of people coming in with us, as we circled the arena completely searching for the office that held our tickets.  It’s all old drab green paint or brick, and so are the security men at each gate, and hangers-on are scattered about touting tickets with their strong South Boston accents.  Stands selling bad food or T-shirts were tucked into every corner of this ancient warren – 1912 it was built.

Our seats are right behind home plate, and there is a net between us and the action to catch foul balls.  The pretty girl sitting beside us shows us a photo on her camera of her purple eye when she was hit on the noggin by a ball.  Now her boyfriend can only get her to a game by buying these protected seats, and she still goes stiff beside me with every crack of the bat.

My ‘job’ in coming to the game is to watch the movement patterns of the players, but I shortly give up on trying to remember individual quirks – the players come and go so fast in the batter’s box, and the action on the field, when there is any, is far away and over quickly.  I content myself with noting the patterns of baseball in general – always running to the left, batters’ stances, and of course pitching and throwing styles, as these guys are the key players.  But honestly, Misty and I just abandon ourselves to the game and each others’ company, laughing like drains at our ignorance, at our inability to call strikes and balls accurately, and at the serious ‘conferences’ at the mound – as we wriggle around on our uncomfortable wrought iron seats.

Boston, plagued with injuries this year, never has a chance – after leading off with 2 runs in the first, the Rays pile up 8 runs in the next few innings.  There’s an enthusiastic Rays fan a couple of rows in front of us, and every time the Rays make a good move, he jumps and shouts in a way that would get him rumbled or seriously hurt in European football, where the competing fans are separated for good reason.  But baseball is more genteel, and nobody seems to mind. A few people try to get chants and cheers going, but many fans are already draining down the aisles toward the exits in the latter part of the game, and the final score, 14 – 5, accurately reflects a lackluster performance from the Sox. It must be hard to play those last innings to a sea of empty seats when it started out so full and expectant. This game is the nail in the coffin for their hopes this year – 8 games behind the hated rival Yankees in early September.

After a sweaty night on Misty’s soft new couch, I brave the T with her as everyone goes to work (“You do this every day” I mumble dubiously to the business-dressed Mist as we are jolted and swayed, sardined among the returning BU students and iPodded coffee drinkers).  I duly arrive at the training room to meet Mike and his staff.  I am amazed – there are only five guys to serve a team of 25 – 37.  With a couple of the trainers from the rival Rays in attendance, I give a little spiel on the role of fascia, and we launch into some shoulder techniques coupled with a discussion of the role body-wide patterns play in local injuries.

The Sox player payroll is about 160 million dollars, and I would have though they would invest more in keeping that investment healthy and playing, but Mike, as a PT, is the exception in the league, not the rule, and the training room, though not ill-equipped, is small and clearly not financed the way you would expect.  I enter through the clubhouse (which again is just a locker room with nice folding chairs, not the state-of-the-art green room one would expect).

We hurried through the morning as they would start being busy with the players shortly after noon.  No players were present, and for those waiting for gossip the closest I got to glory was to use the same urinal to drain my morning coffee and vitamins as Jason Varitek and David Ortiz.  They play 180 games a year, day after day, sometimes switching cities overnight to rise and shine and play again. Almost every one of the players is somewhat injured at any given time – but they must play on.  Dr Rest doesn’t live here.

The staff was sharp, open, knowledgable, a pleasure to work with – and clearly frustrated by having to convince the overpaid, strongly unionized players of the need for their work, as well as the pressure of an observant press and public who don’t hesitate to comment on the injury list, stuck behind a management that toughed it through in the 50’s and sees no need to pamper the players with too much massage or preventive training.  They are essentially on call 24-7, but mostly do their work in the afternoon before the game.  There’s an impression in the wall where a frustrated pitcher threw an adhesive tape cutter at 90 miles an hour.  Mike had him sign it.

Two of the staff are Japanese, as of course are some of the players.  I ask why Japan has taken so to baseball, and they answer immediately: ‘Lack of contact’ – the individual stance and gentlemanly distance fits with the Japanese character.  Although the Japanese team played with real heart in the soccer World Cup, they were out in the second round.

After we’re done, Mike takes me on a tour of Fenway, out of his office into the stands, onto the dirt track that leads us past the Pesky Pole that marks the foul line (and the shortest possible home run distance (302’) in major league baseball, though it’s so far over in right field it gets only rare employment). There’s the single red seat among the green where Ted Williams hit the longest home run in Sox history, the Triangle near the bullpen where a ricocheting ball can turn a double into a triple, and the famous Green Monster, the huge wall with military-looking viewing slits for the folks who run the old-style mechanical scoreboard, and dented with dimples from balls that don’t quite make home runs.  (Those that do run the risk of breaking a windshield on Landsdowne Street.)

It feels very far away from left field to the infield, but one thing that really surprised me was how close it felt from the pitcher’s mound to home plate.  On TV it looks longer, but up close it is no distance at all, giving the batter no time to react.  I am told that Ted Williams, when asked how he hit so well, said something like:  Study the pitcher, study him minutely, and then when he makes his pitch, take your best guess.

We pass by the suites for well-heeled fans, one of many attempts to ‘monetize’ this small old park with big outgoings.  We come back through the dugout and its long tunnel under the seats to the clubhouse.  In a small cement room on the way are the computers, analyzing every pitch, with very detailed stats on all the pitchers, and a video capability of finding out whether the umpire’s call was as bad as the struck-out batter inevitably says it was.  The players are starting to come in – I don’t know faces, so don’t ask me who – and Mike must get to work, so I am on my way.

In these days of huge, bowl-like sports arenae, Fenway is a wonderful quirky throwback to an earlier day, cramped between the Turnpike and Van Ness, unable as well as unwilling to expand into something other than what it is – an old-time ball park, where the action is up close, the fans personally involved, but now with a lot of money at stake. I wish the guys well in their uphill battle to keep the players playing – game after game, year after year. ‘As if it really mattered’ I mutter to myself as I hit Route 1 North toward Maine and home, but then what does any human endeavor really matter?  It’s skilled, entertaining, and inspiring to kids (is it still? I guess) – and if the fans are over-involved, so what?


April 21, 2010

Living in Maine, which I love, has but one disadvantage: everyone around you is of the same culture, and nearly the same American televised voice.  It is fun to be in this UK KMI class, which has drawn students from all over.  Everyone speaks English, but oddly this class has a pair of native speakers in several languages, so the murmur when folks are practicing is polyglossal.  There are two Poles trading sibilants, two Italians casting colorful vowels to the air, two Spanish speakers rolling easily over the syllables, two Israelis scraping the air through an ancient passage, two Danes lilting through diphthongs, two Scots turning plain old English into a heathery arpeggio, and finally two Irishmen threading the needle between poetry and complaint.  What a feast for the ears!

Shell Game

April 7, 2010

Father to daughter: You’re about to graduate from college – the woild is your oyster!

Daughter (surveying the job scene): Right now, it looks more like a lobster.

An Englishman in New York

January 24, 2010

I have had my brushes with fame – not my own, but occasionally the odd bit of rock royalty, sport icon, or toothy award winner will show up at my practice door, or more often require that I show up at their hotel to work on them.  The ‘outcall’ has definite problems associated with it – you go into the other person’s environment which they control and one was often made to wait.  The actual people, once you get there, are usually nice enough, but their situation is often fraught, and the people surrounding these lights are often ghostly shadows, banshees who suck the energy out of the star (one thinks of Michael Jackson, but when I was working in Hollywood I saw it many times in different forms).  After a while you begin (I began) to resent it, no matter how many bills they peel off a wad, and I declined to make any more of these hotel  or house calls for the rich and notorious.

But last night, as a favour to a friend, I did.  Near the park on the Upper East Side, I entered a world of understated elegance, but not removed: only on the second and third floor, the noise of the street penetrated – “I kind of like it.”  No waiting, no pretense, a session on a table set up in the warm library, a glass of wine, and out – but this gentle man and his wife have achieved the difficult: staying ordinary and accessible to life in an extraordinary world of money and connection.  Kids help – the great leveler, though the power of money and fame can insidiously unhinge even the most grounded person.  Their youngest, in his early teens, is rebelling by being a right-wing nutter to his ‘hippie’ parents – a common enough scenario these days.  In my own case, some of it survived – my daughter is definitely more conservative than I, but not nearly conservative as she was at 15.

When catapulted to fame, riches, and the ability to do whatever one wants (almost a form of disease, viewed socially), staying ordinary and responsive to life is indeed a great achievement.  This man has worked at it with smarts and determination, figuring out ways of traveling around London and New York without being recognized, staying out of the tabloid chipper for the most part, and having the grace to let folks like me in, still able to get the juice from what I had to offer without being either lordly or obsequious.

So at the risk of being revealing, I want to tell just one story: This man had the opportunity to introduce indigenous Amazonian medicine men and chiefs to some notables, including the (Polish) pope.  The chief gave the pope a beautiful parrot headdress used in deep healing ceremonies, filled with color and power, the pope gave the shaman some plastic rosary beads and a papal blessing. As they left, the shaman looked back at the Vatican: “There is no spirit here,” he intoned.

In the end, the music makes a difference, and just across the street from the shitting dogs and yelling crazies on the street, just a few blocks from where John Lennon was shot, lives a man whose influence through his music has been varied, beneficial and widespread.  Few get so lucky and so blessed as to be able to shine so brightly on so many people.  But even fewer get to do so without being burned to a husk in the process.  I touched his sacred body – it is full and alive and human and, well, ordinary.  That’s extraordinary.

Health Care Reform

August 19, 2009

As a small businessman, consumer, and health care / education provider, I am vitally interested in health care reform.  Get out of stupid wars, restore American integrity, and reform health care – that was the mandate I signed on for when I voted for Barack Obama.

I have lived under ‘socialized medicine’ in England.  Bring it on for America, as far as I am concerned.  The problems (and there are some, definitely, with any health care delivery) are minor compared to the problems we have; the government runs health care very well.  Those with the money are free to buy private supplemental insurance.  I grumbled about the NHS tax charges when I was there, but it was substantially less money than I pay here for substantially less coverage.

So it is inexplicable to me that Obama has been marching toward the right on this: taking single-payer off the table from the gitgo (bad move) and conceding again and again, most recently on a public option (even worse move – amounts to no reform at all).  And all for naught – not one Republican has deigned to show support or commit their vote.  Rush Limbaugh and Hannity and the rest of the thoughtless voices  – who have yet to offer any alternative – must be laughing at how easy this has been, the total derailment of any and all reform efforts.

Shortly after Labor Day, or when the Congress returns, Obama should:

1) Announce his own plan – he should separate his plan from the Democratic Party (in the toilet) and certainly from the GOP (in the cess pool), and it should have three key points (including the public option) and a good slogan.  He should also keep stressing the economic aspect: in order to compete with China and India in the coming century, we have to get hold of health care costs.

2) Mobilize his base around this plan, and use the mobilized base to stop ridiculous mischaracterizations like ‘death panels’, unplugging Grandma, and government takeover.

3) ‘Or else’ the congressional democrats to get this through.

When it’s done, let the chips fall where they may.  But caving to a right wing who knows not what it wants seems nonsensical – it gets no votes, it guts the intent, and the half-baked reform will be an albatross around Obama’s neck.  Stand up, live your ideals, now’s the time, get it done!

(And even if we do all that, we will only have begun to work toward a physically educated populace.  That would be a health enhancement program.  Stay tuned.)